Group bookings account for a large portion of hotel revenue, which is why it's paramount to cater to the needs of planners and attendees. Most of these people, especially planners, are on the road a lot for business, and small touches to enhance their experience go a long way. This starts before the meeting or event is booked and goes all the way to check-out and beyond. There are a variety of ways to make these hotel guests feel at home during their stay, and our hotel customer experience guide goes into greater detail about what you should — and shouldn't — be doing.
What is the hotel customer experience, and why is it important?
The hotel customer experience is the impression your hotel has on a customer across every stage of their journey. As Hubspot notes, multiple touchpoints factor into the customer experience, and these touchpoints occur on a cross-functional basis.
The customer experience is vital for most businesses, but it's especially important when it comes to the hospitality industry. With competitors fighting for your business, brand loyalty makes all the difference when it comes to repeat bookings. Put simply: If the customer experience isn't what it should be, the odds of that person — and, oftentimes, many other people (due to online and in-person reviews) — booking with your hotel can decrease significantly.
Explore 8 hotel customer experience tips to help maximize satisfaction:
1. Make a great virtual first impression.
While first impressions are usually considered to be in-person interactions, the customer experience journey begins well before that. It's crucial that you focus on your venue marketing efforts to increase the likelihood that planners and guests discover your hotel and move forward. A few important steps to take:
Optimize your website. Your hotel’s website should be user-friendly and optimized to ensure that your property is one of the first options people see.
Optimize your Cvent Supplier Network page. The Cvent Supplier Network is a valuable marketing tool available to hotels looking to market to planners. It can make all the difference when it comes to conversions.
Create a virtual tour. Virtual tours allow you to take tours to the next level and show planners your space without them ever stepping foot in it.
Update imagery for your property. It can be a miss for your venue if imagery isn't up to date. Use the photos on your website and supplier pages to highlight renovations and show the space in action.
Use personalized marketing. Before a planner decides to book, personalization can show that you understand their needs and that you’re ready to make their event great. This involves crafting messaging that's personal to the planner, their event type, and even their industry.
2. Make a great in-person first impression.
While your space and unique offerings can get a planner to book, service is the key to earning repeat business. In fact, more than half the planners surveyed in Cvent's 2019 Planner Sourcing Report cited a lack of professionalism among hotel staff as the reason they won't return. Those results echoed the concerns expressed by MeetingAdvice veteran Steve Goodman, who said he looks for “a level of professionalism from the minute you pull up to the hotel and you meet the doorman, to the front desk, all the way through housekeeping. The level of professionalism that is shown by the staff typically resonates on what type of event you might have at that property."
When it comes to hosting events at your hotel, a common occurrence is long check-in lines, which is the last thing a planner or attendee wants after traveling. One preventative measure is offering mobile check-in. Not only will this speed things up, but the fact that it's a touchless option can increase safety, too. However, it's crucial that the digital check-in is as seamless in practice as it is in theory. Nobody wants a glitchy experience that requires additional support!
3. Prioritize a "just like home" environment.
Some of the guests staying at your hotel during an event travel often — especially the planners. There are a few small touches you can make that will drastically change the customer experience.
If your hotel doesn't have refrigerators in every room, make sure the planners get them. When they're away from home for weeks, it's nice to be able to stock up on food. Sure, your hotel's offerings are probably great, but it can get old eating hotel food when on the road.
Another simple touch is to have housekeeping bring planners extra branded items such as toiletries and snacks. Not only will this ensure that they have everything they need during their stay, but it increases the chances that they bring some of the items along with them for their next stay at another location, where they'll be reminded of your brand and the great experience they had.
Additionally, don't forget about technology. Take Chicago's The Blackstone, for example. The hotel's new, 50-inch flat screen entertainment system provides guests with the ability to enjoy in-room streaming services. What better way to unwind after a long day than watching an episode or two of your favorite TV show?
4. Create special experiences.
You can't rely solely on nice food and clean rooms to attract group business. It’s necessary to set yourself apart from the competition and offer unique hotel experiences.
“At the end of the day, large groups can go to a lot of different hotels for their meetings,” said Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation. “But the business will go to the ones that provide something different and can deliver an experience that fulfills their wish list and then some. Give them an experience they will remember.”
A few examples include:
- Innovative food and beverage options, such as custom-themed cocktails and cooking schools.
- Advanced meeting room technology and digital connectivity.
- Partnerships with offsite venues.
- In-house conference services, including A/V providers and destination management companies, which can often save planners money when they’re onsite.
5. Put yourself in attendees' shoes.
All-day meetings and events can be draining, so it's important to make sure attendees feel refreshed when they get a break. Have housekeeping put extra supplies in the public restrooms for attendees to freshen up. A basket full of mouthwash, deodorant, hand sanitizer, etc. can really add to the guest experience.
Most event organizers contract some sort of food and beverage for these breaks, but this is a great opportunity to offer options that will leave attendees energized. It depends on the planner’s budget, but at least make these options available. Offering healthy items like fruit-infused water and energy bites can be a nice change from soft drinks and cookies.
6. Offer tech-driven tools and solutions.
Your technology offerings can make or break an experience, and it goes beyond the options mentioned above. Here are a few technology ideas that will help your property stand out and improve the customer experience.
- Room block technology. It's a highly valuable tool in regards to making life easier for planners. It allows them to track block pickup and make adjustments without contacting the hotel — saving your team time as well.
- In-room digital assistants. You can train certain devices to respond to things like, “I’d like to place a room service order,” or “make me a reservation for a massage.” The guest just has to say their name and room number and they’re all set.
- Short-term rentals. If a planner or attendee forgets any technology essentials at home, their trip can get a lot more stressful. To offer a better customer experience, consider renting out technology basics like chargers. Be sure to have options for the majority of devices.
- Near-field communication and Bluetooth. At Disney World, visitors can get a band or card that lets them unlock their hotel room, purchase food and merchandise, buy add-ons and more — completely hands-free. Technology like near-field communication and Bluetooth make this possible, which can be a difference-maker when it comes to the customer experience.
7. Communication is the key to the hotel customer experience.
Starting with RFPs and going all the way to post-event surveys and emails, communication is the key to the customer experience.
For example, if there's a tight turn that's needed for a meeting space, be upfront with the planner about the possible outcomes, and go over what you can both do to prepare. Maybe the planner has unrealistic expectations about floor plans or food and beverage. Be honest about any limitations so there are no surprises when it comes to event execution.
Once the event begins, it's important to remain in contact with the planner. Whether there's a medical incident, an unruly guest, or anything in between, you need to notify the planner if the guest is a part of their group. While your hotel has a response plan for incidents, planners also have their own, and they're usually required to report any incidents to the correct stakeholders.
And of course, it's more important now than ever to ensure that your hotel is prioritizing safe meetings and events. Whether you're leveraging event diagramming tools to ensure that you adhere to all guidelines, establishing a new health and sanitation program, or anything else, make sure planners are up-do-date on any and all changes.
8. Don't forget about the future.
Hosting meetings and events at your hotel is a great opportunity to get guests to book for leisure, either during their same trip or in the future. While planners and attendees are there for an event, they may not get to enjoy everything your hotel has to offer. However, offering incentives to experience some of the amenities during their stay might just bring them back on a vacation. Do you have a spa? Offer a discount or a specialized package for their next visit. Do you offer family-fun activities like golf or boat rentals? Give them a voucher that's good for the next year.
You also want to convince planners to bring their future meetings and events back to your property. Other than following the steps listed above, it's crucial to have post-event communication with your planner to run through what worked and go over any suggestions to make things better next time. This gives both parties an opportunity to give praise, as well as feedback. If you don't have feedback, you won't know what to improve for future groups. This communication will also give you the opportunity to showcase what types of upgrades you can offer.
Another option is to create a post-event survey for planners to fill out while they're traveling. Make it enjoyable for them so they take the time to answer and help you improve. Short surveys are best, just one to three questions. A simple Net Promoter Score-type survey suffices, or try using emojis to signify feelings instead of number ratings.
A handful of other ideas include:
- Leverage social media. Post compliments about the meeting or event on your social media profiles. Include any pertinent hashtags or account usernames so they get additional exposure. If you want to go above and beyond, seek permission to feature the planner in your newsletter or blog. Pass along information about the social media traffic, shares, and engagement.
- Drive future bookings with discounts. Some hotels provide discounts when multiple events are booked at the same time. This gives planners an incentive to come back. Others offer loyalty programs, comped rooms for repeat events, and more. Offer these benefits to your clients in a thank-you email or phone call after the event.
- Use technology to continue to elevate their planning experience. As we noted above, planners usually stick with venues that implement the latest tools and experiences. If that's your hotel, showcase your dedication to innovation through experiential marketing. For example, Marriott embraced this trend through its virtual-reality campaign that transported guests to its locations across the globe. You can use this same technology to create virtual walkthroughs of the planner's setup and design, letting them create in a virtual sandbox.
When it comes to winning future guest business, try these post-stay email marketing ideas:
- Ask for feedback. Some guests return from stays only to quickly forget their experience. Instead, capture their thoughts when they’re still fresh. Provide a direct link to your TripAdvisor page, or ask them to email their feedback directly.
- Reach guests' friends. Give guests a reason to tell their friends about you. Make it enticing. Don’t simply say, "Tell your friends about us!" Instead, make the offer attractive, such as offering 15% using a specific discount code.
- Showcase your rewards program. Let your guests know the benefits of your rewards program. This is especially important if your guest came through an online travel agency and needs an extra nudge.
Get started using these hotel customer experience tips today!
Up next, discover how to use guest engagement strategies to stay ahead of your competition.